As the race for the Republican nomination for Attorney General enters the home stretch, I have been increasingly impressed not just with the quality of the candidates, but also with the level of respect each of the candidates has shown for their opponents. Every Virginia Republican must understand by now the importance of emerging from our convention on June 1 as a united front. Unfortunately, some of the things I am reading about this race seem designed to drive a wedge further into our Party.
Specifically, I was disappointed to read a post from my friend, Mason Conservative, responding to Jerry Kilgore’s endorsement of John Brownlee earlier this week. In it, he rails against “Old Virginia” and somehow manages to connect John Brownlee with Harry Byrd. Not only are some of the arguments presented fallacious, I believe they are potentially destructive to our Party and must be responded to.
First let me caveat this by saying that I have the utmost respect for Chris and I am certain his concerns are sincere. However, I strongly disagree with his view of John Brownlee and frankly I have to wonder how much he has actually talked to the man. Further, I also have great respect for Sen. Cuccinelli. As I personally told him yesterday at the YRFV Convention, if he is the nominee he will have my 100% support. However, I feel that the arguments put forth in the above-mentioned post contain several fallacies that beg refutation.
First and foremost is the idea that Jerry Kilgore’s endorsement is worthless because he lost the 2005 Gubernatorial election. In order to dispel that notion, let me throw out a couple of numbers. 1,107,068 and 60.01% v. 970,886 and 49.96%. Those are the number of votes and percentages of the vote that Jerry Kilgore and Bob McDonnell each received for Attorney General, according to the State Board of Elections. In 2001, AG candidate Jerry Kilgore was the leading vote-getter out of six candidates in all three statewide races!
The point is, if we are talking about what it takes to be Attorney General, Jerry Kilgore knows what he’s talking about on that subject. Let me also point out that in 2001, Jerry Kilgore won 73,025 votes (43%) in the 8th Congressional District and 83,018 (51%) in the 11th. Compare that to McDonnell’s 2005 numbers of 52,875 (31%) in the 8th and 87,160 (47%) in the 11th and take population growth into consideration and you won’t see someone who “thinks Republicans can win without Northern Virginia.” In fact, I daresay that Kilgore might know better than most how important Northern Virginia is in elections.
In addition, the criticism of Kilgore’s endorsement seems to be premised on the idea that only someone from Northern Virginia can win votes in Northern Virginia. This is an argument I have heard over and over and it is frankly garbage. In fact, it is just as much of a fallacy as saying someone from Fairfax can’t win votes in the 6th and 9th Congressional Districts.
By and large people do not vote on geography, they vote on issues and personalities. People will vote for the candidate that they feel understands the problems they are facing, offers solutions to those problems and is a person they feel they can trust. Voters don’t go around saying “I like everything that guy says but he’s from [Fairfax/Roanoke/etc. ] County, so I’m going to vote for the other guy.” The question we have to ask ourselves is what issues are going to matter most in the Attorney General’s race and which candidate is best qualified to address those issues. For a variety of reasons, I believe that person is John Brownlee, but that is a post for another time.
The other fallacy at work here is represented with this statement:
John Brownlee is simply an extension of Old Virginia, the same rural conservatism that has drowned this party. There is no place for Northern Virginia in Old Virginia, we are just a bunch of liberals up here anyways.
Driving this kind of wedge into our Party is exactly what folks in the rest of the state get accused of doing all the time. Chris complains about NOVA being ignored and insulted, but apparently fails to realize that respect, like a lot of other things, is a two-way street.
Does NOVA matter? Yes. Is NOVA all that matters? No. The idea that, since John Brownlee most recently lived in Roanoke, he can’t possibly understand Northern Virginia or appeal to voters in that region is an absurd one with no foundation. In fact, not only did John Brownlee spend some time growing up in Northern Virginia, he also lived there when he worked as Assistant US Attorney in Washington, DC. Quite simply, a candidate’s ability to talk to the voters in Northern Virginia will rely much more on his credibility and experience than on his Zip Code.
Finally, the criticism of Kilgore’s endorsement does not address a single issue raised by Kilgore in his actual statement. In fact, I have to wonder if Chris even read Kilgore’s statement at all or if he just saw the name “Jerry Kilgore” and freaked out. In the statement, Kilgore talked about Brownlee’s experience in running the US Attorney’s office and how that would translate to the Attorney General’s office. Since Kilgore worked in both, I would have to think that his opinion on that matter is probably a good one. Further, Kilgore talked about Brownlee’s experience as a prosecutor and his relationship with law enforcement as important considerations for a prospective Attorney General. Again, I think Kilgore’s opinion on those matters carries some weight.
Instead of addressing the substance of Kilgore’s statement, Chris instead states that the “Old Virginia Republicanism of Kilgore and Brownlee dive bomb Northern Virginia banking on old ideas for a bygone era that don’t work anymore.” I fail to see how experience, leadership, public safety, illegal immigration, and other issues addressed in this campaign represent “old ideas for a bygone era.” Rather, I think they are the core questions that should be asked of all our candidates for Attorney General.
Finally, I want to close by saying that I agree with Chris that we must fight for every inch of the Commonwealth in the upcoming election. I also agree that the Republican Party as a whole needs to do a much better job in Northern Virginia if we are going to have any success in the future. However, I do not believe that the inclusion of John Brownlee on our statewide ticket would in any way be an “insult” to Northern Virginia or signal that we do not care about the region. The issues that will matter in the Attorney General’s race are issues that affect all Virginians equally, such as gangs, drugs, corruption, fraud, and defending the laws of the Commonwealth. As such, I think it is a mistake to turn this contest into one that pits one region of the state against another. Doing so will only result in division when what we need most is unity.
On that, I hope we can agree.